The Republican Party is seeking documents from the State Department that could shed light on whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office interfered with Freedom of Information Act as was reported earlier this week.
Clinton’s political staff personally reviewed and negotiated the release of public records at the department requested under the Freedom of Information Act and, in some cases, blocked documents’ release, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
In a letter to the department obtained by McClatchy, the Republican National Committee, asks for all records, including memos and correspondence, that mention, reference or relate to FOIAs, including the requests themselves that were sent to or from 41 employees, including Clinton and many of her top aides, including chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.
The State Department’s action regarding public records have come under scrutiny since it was revealed earlier this year that Clinton used a personal email account for government business during her tenure as secretary of state. The latest report has prompted further questions.
The State Department and Clinton’s presidential campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
On Wednesday, the Journal reported that in one case, Mills told State Department records specialists she wanted to see documents requested on the Keystone XL pipeline, later demanding some be held back. In a second case, the newspaper reported that Mill’s staff negotiated with records specialists over the release of documents about Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton’s speaking engagements, and again held back some.
A department’s FOIA staff is supposed to make decisions on release so as to ensure records actions are not political or other inappropriate.
The House committee investigating the fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya is also waiting for records from the department as it looks into Clinton’s use of emails as well as her role in the 2012 incident that killed four Americans, including an ambassador.
Clinton has turned over 30,490 emails to the State Department in response to a request from the agency, but that she deleted more than 32,000 emails that she considered personal.
The department plans to release the emails once they have reviewed them. But a federal judge rejected the State Department’s plan to release most of Clinton’s emails as secretary of state in January 2016 and instead told the agency to open them to the public in small batched over time.
“I have said repeatedly I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do,” Clinton told reporters in Iowa this week. “I respect the State Department. They have their process that they use for everybody, not just me. But anything they might do to expedite that process I heartily support.”
The State Department received 20,000 records requests in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to federal records. It processed more than 18,000 requests but still ended with a backlog of nearly 11,000.
A conservative group, Citizens United, began filing Freedom of Information Act requests at the State Department last year in hopes of getting enough information to produce a documentary about Clinton. It has filed five lawsuits against the State Department in recent months after its requests for Clinton’s travel and communications records went unanswered.
In March, the Associated Press sued the State Department to force the release of some documents, including emails, after its requests went unfilled.